17-year-old Susanville girl earns pilot’s license
She may not be the youngest lady flyer in Lassen County history, but she’s almost certainly the county’s youngest these days. Datema said she is pleased to have completed her training.
“It’s amazing,” Datema said. “I love it. The last thing I had to do was my check ride, which is like a driver’s test in the sky. They ask questions and make you do certain maneuvers. They want to make sure you’re capable of maintaining control of the airplane.”
She’s the third member of her family to hold a pilot’s license. Her brother Pete and her father are both pilots. In addition to serving as the airport manager, her father also is a flight instructor.
“If it wasn’t for my dad, I wouldn’t have my license,” Datema said. “He never pushed me, but he supported me and gave me the opportunity to learn to fly. He taught me most of the time, but near the end I got passed around to other instructors. At the very end, he took over again.”
Datema said it took her a long time to complete her training, but things progresses quickly once she got serious about completing her training.
“The first entry in my log book is 2003,” Datema said. “Up until last year I just flew a couple of times a year. But this year I really dedicated myself to it and got it done.”
The young pilot already has learned the difference between flying in good weather and flying in bad weather.
“When you fly in good weather, the plane does what you tell it to,” Datema said. “It’s pretty simple. In bad weather it’s pretty bumpy and the wind takes you one way or the other.”
The first license pilots earn restricts them to flying in conditions when the pilot does not encounter clouds or other visual obstacles — called visual flight rules or VFR in aviation shorthand. A second license is required for pilots who fly under instrument flight rules. IFR pilots can fly when clouds cover an airplane’s windshield like a thick fog. The pilots use their instruments to get their bearings.
Datema said she eventually would like to earn an IFR license, “but that will probably have to wait for a while — until after college.”
As pilots learn to use their instruments, they fly with a hood that covers their head and limits their vision to just the airplane’s instruments.
“Flying under a hood, it’s like putting blinders on a horse,” Datema said. “I like doing that.”
But she said VFR pilots who fly in IFR conditions put themselves and any passengers at great risk.
“They say if you don’t know what you’re doing and you fly into clouds you’re completely out of control in something like 70 seconds. It really messes you up,” Datema said.
The young pilot graduated from Lassen High School in June where she played on the Lady Grizzlies’ soccer team. She plans to attend Sacramento State University in the fall and study math and science.
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